Home > Apparel > Outerwear

Lift Off! Why Columbia Going to the Moon Will Make History — And the Future

Columbia Sportswear is going to the moon, and it's a big deal for space, brands, and gear.

nova-c lunar lander with columbia logo on moon(Photo/Columbia)
Support us! GearJunkie may earn a small commission from affiliate links in this article. Learn More

Make no mistake, while the Columbia name is no stranger to the American space program, Columbia Sportswear will break new ground — er, atmosphere — when the Nova-C lunar lander leaves the friendly confines of Earth this week.

“This is unprecedented!” Columbia Director of Communications, Andy Nordhoff, told GearJunkie. “Brands like Columbia, especially in the outdoor industry, don’t often get a chance to test our products in outer space. It’s an incredible opportunity.”

That’s because this week, weather permitting, Columbia’s Omni-Heat Infinity reflective material — the same shiny, gold stuff that graces thousands of jackets at this very moment — will help protect the U.S.’s first space vehicle to land on the moon’s surface since 1972. It’s a momentous undertaking in and of itself, and it also heralds a new chapter in humankind’s presence in space — not to mention a whole new era of gear!

columbia omni-heat infinite gold dots

Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C Mission

At first glance, Columbia’s involvement with an unmanned moon mission might sound like a fun marketing campaign for an otherwise unremarkable space event. After all, America’s Curiosity rover is still sending back regular updates and photos of Mars.

But to understand the significance of Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C lander requires a quick primer on the IM-1 mission itself. It’s the first of three Intuitive Machines moon missions, and part of an ongoing NASA-backed program called Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS).

Think of CLPS as a veritable Uber Eats for the moon, with private companies taking orders from NASA to deliver technology and equipment to the moon’s surface. And all of these orders will gradually stock the moon with the supplies and information necessary to help set the stage for upcoming manned missions, sustained human presence on the moon, and, believe it or not, commercial development.

nova-c lunar lander with columbia logo and american flag

That’s right: Despite all the overzealous promises of thriving lunar metropolises made more than a half-century ago, the moon is finally poised to become a commercial destination. And Columbia will be one of the very first brands to touch that real estate.

Why Is Columbia Going to the Moon?

But again, what’s the point of stamping your brand logo on a spacecraft if not good marketing?

“We have a payload with Columbia Sportswear, which is almost NASCAR-like in the way we’re doing that,” Intuitive Machines Chief Technology Officer Tim Crain quipped on the NASA podcast Houston, We Have a Podcast.

Sure enough, the Columbia name and logo will be clearly visible on the Nova-C hull. But unlike the beautifully wrapped race cars that Columbia actually sponsors, these logos represent very real technology and useful science integrated into the spacecraft.

“That collaboration has been deeper and more fruitful than we could have possibly imagined because it turns out they’re really good material scientists who are interested in how to keep humans warm and comfortable on Earth,” Crain said of Columbia engineers and designers. “It’s exactly the same thing we want to do to our payloads, keep them warm and comfortable during the transit to the Moon.”

It’s no small task — the temperatures Nova-C will face in space could vary between an unthinkably cold -250 degrees Fahrenheit, to a scorching +250 degrees.

Impressive, but What’s in It for You?

But the Nova-C isn’t the only one that will reap the benefits of the latest and greatest technology from Columbia’s keenest minds. This mission is a two-way street. The team at Intuitive Machines gets a peek at what Columbia can do, and Columbia gets a front-row seat to see what it takes to survive space.

columbia omni-heat infinity jacket

“We learned that the kinds of insulation they use on spacecraft, in general, are called multi-layer insulation blankets or MLI blankets,” Dr. Haskell Beckham, vice president of innovation at Columbia, said in an interview. “Oh my goodness! We can make a jacket modeled after that kind of real insulation. As opposed to a single layer — our jackets have, for the most part, a single layer on the lining that reflects the heat — the jacket we launched last fall has two layers of that heat reflective insulation.”

And while the Omni-Heat Infinity technology in the latest Columbia jackets represents the brand’s initial findings on spacefaring gear, Dr. Beckham eagerly awaits what details emerge once it’s actually been to space.

“I could not be more excited!” he said. “I am a scientist. I am a nerd. I love this stuff and ever since I was a kid, I looked toward the space program for the most difficult technological challenges. But as I said before, space is hard and we’ll see if we stick this landing.”

The Nova-C will take off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida as part of the SpaceX Falcon 9 payload. The launch is scheduled for Feb. 14, 12:57 a.m. EST. You can stream the launch live on NASA TV.

Subscribe Now

Get adventure news and gear reviews in your inbox!

Join Our GearJunkie Newsletter

Get adventure news and gear reviews in your inbox!